Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19: 9A, 11-13A; Ps 85: 9-14; Rom 9: 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

Truly, you are the son of God.” The Apostles acknowledge that truth after witnessing all that occurred on the Sea of Galilee. What a 24 hours those Apostles had experienced. Jesus performed the miracle of feeding thousands with a small amount of food, and then He not only walked on the water, but the Apostles witnessed Peter walking on the water (admittedly only briefly), and then saw the powers of the Lord as He caused the storm to cease.

This Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time includes readings which speak of rejection, and then love and acceptance and forgiveness. The first reading from the First Book of Kings describes how Elijah fled and tried to hide, but, of course, neither Elijah nor we can really hide from the Lord. Also like Elijah, if we choose to follow the Lord and be His disciple, there may be times when we feel isolated and discouraged.

Note how God comes to Elijah, asking the question (both before and after these verses in First Kings), “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asks that question although the Lord knows the answer. God does not always come in dramatic fashion — storms or fire or wind. Often, He comes the way this reading describes Him — “a tiny whispering sound.” God may approach us in similar ways, and in order to hear and understand Him we must focus on God, and we must be prepared. That is why prayer is important for us, because God is also there in the silence.

In the few verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, our second reading, Paul covers quite a bit. Paul is saddened by the state of the Israelites. These are the same Israelites who have made life very difficult for Paul, but Christ-like, he showed love and forgiveness. Paul also states quite clearly that Jesus is indeed God: “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever.” Lives of stewardship demand that we be like Paul, showing love for all, forgiveness for all, and the willingness to embrace our Lord and Savior always.

The Gospel from Matthew, describing the scene on the Sea of Galilee, featuring Jesus and Peter, confirms what happened to Elijah in the first reading and how Paul feels in the second reading. Although Jesus questions Peter’s faith when St. Peter sinks into the water, it is a positive comment on Peter that he knew exactly to whom to turn, “Lord, save me.” We need to have that acknowledgment of the Lord’s power and grace on the edge of our consciousness at all times, too.

No doubt when Peter leapt from the boat and began to move on the water, his eyes were on Jesus, but when he realized the force of the wind and the waves, he may have diverted his eyes, and in that instant he sank. What a clear reminder to us that we must keep our eyes and our concentration on the Lord, not on the storms which may arise around us. Imagine the situation: there is a raging storm; suddenly out of nowhere Jesus appears; Peter responds; Jesus saves Peter and they get into the boat, and scripture reminds us “the wind died down.” From the noise and danger of the storm suddenly there is peace and calm. Experiencing this contrast, understanding that the power of the Lord is suddenly found in the silence (like the “whispering sound” in the first reading), the Apostles declare “Truly, you are the son of God.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 10, 2014

August 10, 2014 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19: 9A, 11-13A; Ps 85: 9-14; Rom 9: 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33

Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Are those words that might apply to us at times? This week’s Gospel recounts the well known description of Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee. We need to remember that last week we heard of the feeding of the 5,000. This narrative follows immediately after that one.

Each week all of our readings abound with stewardship messages, but this chronicle is so well known and has such a powerful message that we need to focus on it. In fact, focus is the fundamental word in today’s Gospel. The word “focus” is not used directly, but Jesus’ challenge to Peter, and to us as well, about faith, has everything to do with our focus.

St. Peter, we now know, was a man of great faith, in spite of his shortcomings. There was a sound reason Jesus identified Peter as the man on whom He could build the Kingdom, the Church. Peter leaps from the boat with faith and begins to do the remarkable by walking on the water toward the Lord. Yet he is suddenly distracted by the storm and everything that is going on around him. The moment his eyes stray from Jesus, the moment Peter loses his focus on the Lord, he sinks. We are the same. Stewardship demands that we focus on the Lord, each moment of each day. That way we have the strength to overcome anything.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 1-3; Ps 145: 8-9, 15-18; Rom 8: 35, 37-39; Mt 14: 13-21

Blessed Mother Teresa, one of the great examples in our time of what it is to be Catholic and what it is to be a good steward, said “Jesus has made Himself the Bread of Life to give us life. Night and day He is there for us. If you really want to grow in love, come back to the Eucharist; come back to that Adoration.” It is appropriate for us to remember that Eucharist means thanksgiving in Greek for it was Christ’s ideal sacrifice for each of us.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1336): “The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be a division. “Will you also go away?’ The Lord’s question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only He has the ‘words of eternal life’ and that to receive in faith the gift of the Eucharist is to receive the Lord Himself.”

The first reading from the prophetic Book of Isaiah, although written centuries before the birth of Christ, describes the Eucharist perfectly. “All you who are thirsty, come to the watercome receive grain and eatI will renew with you the everlasting covenant.” God also says in this reading, “Heed me and you shall eat well.” We must listen to the Lord, and we must listen carefully. As great a gift as the Eucharist is, it is our perception and our reaction to it that makes it so incredible. It is up to us to realize the power of communion every time we receive it, and it is completely up to us to take that gift and to spread it through love and stewardship.

We are assured in the first reading that God will feed us spiritually and that there is always enough to meet our needs. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks eloquently of the immeasurable nature of God’s love, how, if we are open and receptive to this endless love, nothing, absolutely nothing can keep us from union with the Lord. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus was fond of teaching with parables, but He may have taught more effectively with His actions. The Gospel reading from Matthew relates one of His miracles, one of those stories with which each of us is very familiar. Chapter 14 from the Book of Matthew is replete with amazing tales. It begins, sadly, with the death of John the Baptist. Upon hearing of this, the Lord is saddened and goes off by Himself in a boat. However, a huge crowd gathers on the shore, and, moved by compassion, He begins to move among them and heal the sick. It was late in the day and the disciples were concerned about how all these people were going to eat. The miracle Jesus then performed follows exactly the message of the first two readings: that the Lord will, and can provide, and that there is always enough for everyone.

The verses in today’s Gospel are often titled “Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.” As they are wont to do, scholars and historians have examined this, which actually states, “Those who ate were five thousand men, not counting women and children.” Some have concluded that there may have been double that number or more. Nevertheless, the point is not the number fed; the reality is that Jesus is able to feed everyone who wishes to eat of the Bread of Life. The Lord has fed literally billions through the Eucharist. The Lord has resources beyond our wildest imaginations. We must nonetheless seek those resources through Him. Practicing stewardship recognizes that, and it leads us to lives of holiness, and to the “everlasting covenant” mentioned in the first reading.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 1-3; Ps 145: 8-9, 15-18; Rom 8: 35, 37-39; Mt 14: 13-21

Because it is a way of life, stewardship can be found in our readings at every Mass. On this Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, that is certainly the case. Our Gospel reading from Matthew is particularly rich in that respect.

All through the readings for this Sunday runs the theme of the Eucharist, Jesus’ enormous gift to us. The story of Jesus feeding the multitude is rightfully considered a “miracle,” but its strong stewardship message is way beyond the sharing demonstrated and stewardship example it provides. There is a much more subtle stewardship message to each of us to be found in this Gospel.

St. Matthew’s Gospel points out that the first thing the Lord did was to raise His eyes to Heaven and say the blessing. This prayer is a way of thanking God for His beneficence. It is the stewardship reminder that we need to thank God for our blessings. The disciples express concern that all these people must eat, and they cannot conceive of how they can feed them. Jesus’ response shows complete trust in God. Stewardship calls us to also put our trust in the Lord.

Finally, when they were all fed and satisfied, they gathered what was left so that it could be shared with others. This is a gentle sign to us that stewardship involves not wasting our gifts. Those three hints provide us with three key stewardship words: gratitude, trust, and responsibility.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 3: 5, 7-12 ; Ps 119: 57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; Rom 8: 28-30; Mt 13: 44-52

“I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one equal to you.” (1 Kings 3:12) With those prophetic words God grants Solomon his wish for one thing—wisdom. Wisdom, of course, is much more than knowledge. In fact, what Solomon actually asked for was “an understanding heart.” Solomon sought not just understanding in his head, but understanding in his heart. We must look deeper into the meaning of Solomon’s request; in Hebrew the word for understanding also means “hearing.” Solomon wanted to hear God, and he wanted to hear Him in his heart. He wanted to listen to God.

We are all called to prayer, but too often we view prayer as a one way street. We talk to God and we expect Him to respond, but do we really listen to Him? Hearing God is an important part of stewardship. However, to hear God requires us being silent and listening. That is why adoration and other kinds of quiet and contemplative prayer are so important. It is through carefully listening to and hearing God that we can better perceive what we are to do.

The readings for this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time call us to more than just listening though. The first reading from 1 Kings is all about Solomon seeking and being granted wisdom by God. Solomon understood already something which each of us must grapple with. Solomon knew that he needed God’s help to be the kind of leader and the kind of authority he wished to be. That is a conclusion each of us needs to reach as a good steward — that we need God’s help and we need to ask for it.

The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans also speaks of God’s help. God has made an enduring promise to us, and He will help us to seek and achieve the glory of holiness and Heaven. “All things work for good for those who love God.” The key to this glorification is the same as with Solomon in the first reading. We must seek God and we must respond to Him with love and obedience. Note that God is able to work “all things,” not just some things. Stewardship calls us to God-centered lives, but it requires discipline (The roots of the word “discipline” are the same as those of the word “disciple.”) on our parts. We must acknowledge and accept God’s role in our lives.

Jesus loved to teach with parables. The Gospel for today includes a whole series of parables from The Parable of the Hidden Treasure to the Parable of the Costly Pearl to the Parable of the Dragnet. After recounting these Parables Jesus asks the disciples if they understand them. They respond, “Yes, Lord.” Is that our response as well?

Do we understand in our hearts (recall the wisdom of Solomon) that we need the Lord’s help to achieve holiness? Do we truly understand that the Lord loves us, that we are the pearls which He wants? Jesus has given everything, His very life, to purchase us. Nevertheless, we must respond with love and understanding to His sacrifice, to His giving to us to redeem us. We must see Christ in our lives, every day and every moment. Last year at the Youth Day in Brazil, Pope Francis said, “The Lord told us, ‘Do not be afraid. I am with you always.’ Jesus does not leave us alone. He never leaves you alone. He accompanies you always.”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: July 27, 2014

July 27, 2014 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 3: 5, 7-12 ; Ps 119: 57, 72, 76-77, 127-130; Rom 8: 28-30; Mt 13: 44-52

Today’s Gospel continues a series of parables which Jesus shared to teach us and His Apostles and disciples. One of the better known statements from one of the brief parables (The Parable of the Hidden Treasure) is: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” Then a Man seeking that treasure sells all He has and buys that field.

We may think that we are the “man” seeking the treasure, which is identified as the Kingdom of Heaven, but that might be incorrect. The field is more likely the world in which we live; the Man is not us, but Jesus; and the treasure is, quite simply, each of us.

Jesus gave everything for us; He gave everything to “purchase” the world; and we must understand that we are the treasure He sought. He has blessed us in incredible ways, but especially as our Savior and Redeemer. Part of being a faithful steward is recognizing those blessings, appreciating those gifts, and making an attempt to return those gifts to Him through our Church and through the way we live our lives. The noted author Dostoyevsky once wrote: “God has such gladness every time He sees from Heaven that a sinner is praying to Him with all his heart, as a mother has when she sees the first smile on her baby’s face.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wis 12: 13, 16-19; Ps 86: 5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Rom 8: 26-27; Mt 13: 24-43

“But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.” That quote, taken from our first reading from the Book of Wisdom, presents God as the merciful and loving God He is. Our readings for this Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time span from this God of Mercy to the help of the Holy Spirit in our prayers to Jesus making it clear to us that we must view ourselves as the soil in which God plants seeds of wisdom and understanding and truth and love.

The Book of Wisdom, from which our first reading is drawn, is attributed by many to Solomon. In fact, it is called in several circles as The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon. For our purposes it is not important who the author was, but he has written is holy in nature and notable for that reason. “Wisdom” in itself is difficult for most of us to grasp; however, the “wisdom” contained in this Book, and in this reading, guide us to the means to achieve wisdom, and the fruits such wisdom can produce. One of the keys to a life of stewardship is understanding that we are gifted with many fruits and we are called to multiply those fruits and return them with surplus to the Lord and others.

The point of the first reading is that we understand that God is merciful to us because He loves us. It also is one of the many prophetic statements about the love and redeeming grace of Jesus Christ: “you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”

The second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks of prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to assist us in prayer. If you have ever committed yourself to adoration, or some other form of prayer, you may sometimes find yourself sitting (or kneeling) at a loss of what to think or say. What Paul emphasizes is that we must pray; we must commit the time to pray; however, we must also accept the fact that God through the Holy Spirit will guide us in our prayers. “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought.” The fundamental recipe here is that we must on a regular basis set time aside to pray, time to be with the Lord. Often we lose sight of the fact that prayer is a two way street — it is not just us proclaiming to God our needs, our wants, and our gratitude. It is also just listening to hear what God has to say.

The Gospel from Matthew, in which Jesus relates the Parable of the Sower, might be summarized quite simply, “Judge not lest you be judged.” Jesus makes it clear that when the tares (weeds) are discovered among the wheat, it is not our job to either decide what are weeds or to separate them from the good wheat, the fruits. That will be done at the Lord at harvest time, on Judgment Day. As stewards sometimes we become too involved with what those around us are doing. We must present ourselves as good soil and as good “wheat.” God will take care of the rest. One of the shortest of Jesus’ parables is included in today’s Gospel as well — the Parable of the Mustard Seed. This is significant to each of us. Although we, like the mustard seed, may seem small and insignificant, through our stewardship efforts, combined with those around us making similar efforts, the Kingdom of God can grow to an unimaginable size which can accommodate a host of those in need.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wis 12: 13, 16-19; Ps 86: 5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Rom 8: 26-27; Mt 13: 24-43

The readings for this 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of God’s incredible mercy; St. Paul in his letter to the Romans reminds us how challenging prayer can be; however, Jesus in His Parable of the Sower speaks to the very heart of stewardship.

Christ could not make it more clear in the parable as He identifies directly what the story means. The Lord wants us to understand. The field is the world, with each of us as an important part of it. The seeds are the Word of God, given to us, scattered among us. The crop is the grain, but unfortunately tares – a word used to describe bad seeds and weeds – can come along with what has been planted.

Stewardship calls for us to accept and hear the Word. It challenges us to take that Word and to do something positive with it. The Word is a gift to us. We must nurture that gift and return it to God with surplus. Nevertheless, the Lord knows it is not easy, but it is something we must undertake and be committed to. For truly at the end, at judgment, God will know what is genuine stewardship motivated by love, and what is false stewardship, generated for some other reason. Pope Francis is a steward; he knows that judging is God’s work. At each papal audience he looks for and seeks people with diseases which disfigure them, and he stops and he embraces them. He knows the difference between wheat and tares.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Join Us for the Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference – Sept. 9-10

The next Msgr. Thomas McGread Stewardship Conference will be held Sept. 9-10, 2014, and registration is now open. There are a limited number of spaces available, so we are extending an invitation to our followers of The Catholic Steward blog to attend this one-of-a-kind event.

Now in its 11th year, the McGread Conference has inspired and educated thousands of priests, religious, and lay Catholics, by sharing the remarkable stories of how developing the spirituality of stewardship has transformed the lives of parishioners as well as the life of the parish.

The late Msgr. Thomas McGread, who passed away in April 2013, is often called the “Father of Stewardship.” He was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.

At this conference, you can hear the remarkable story of how stewardship transformed his parish — St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita — and how it has impacted other parishes across the country. The conference also will feature presentations by pastors and lay leaders from around the country that will share stories of how stewardship has become a way of life in their parish.

The McGread Stewardship Conference is held at the Diocese of Wichita’s Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, Kansas.

Click here to find out more about the McGread Conference. You can also register for the conference at this link.

Conference spots will fill up quickly, so register today! You may register online at the link above, or if you have any questions or would like more information, contact Shari Navarre at 888-822-1847, ext. 3702, or by e-mail at shari@catholicsteward.com.

Posted in Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 10-11; Ps 65: 10-14; Rom 8: 18-23; Mt 13: 1-23

In a sense, we begin and end our readings on this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time with the impact of the Word. God reminds us in the first reading that we are to take the Word and live it, and Jesus prompts us again in today’s Gospel that the Word is real, that we are to take it and nurture it and make it fruitful.

The first reading from Isaiah has God comparing His Word to the rains we encounter on earth, which bring new life and growth to everything we experience. God wants us to know that His Word has power. However, we must take that Word, assimilate it, and then live it out. That is exactly what stewardship demands — living the Word out in our daily lives. One of the most common descriptions of stewardship gleaned from our U. S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship (Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response) is that stewardship is to “receive God’s gifts gratefully… to cultivate them responsibly… to share them lovingly in justice with others… to return them with increase to the Lord.” This is what God means when He says, “my word shall not return to me void.” We are to take the Word of God and make it alive in our lives and the lives of those around us.

It may seem almost incongruous to compare human suffering with the glory of Heaven, but that is exactly what St. Paul does in his letter to the Romans. Of all his letters in the New Testament, this letter is the longest and considered by those who evaluate these matters to be Paul’s most theological letter. At the time of this letter, Paul had never been to Rome, although he longed to go there. Also, the Roman Christian community was large and may have comprised several different factions. The point of this section of the letter is that we as Christians may not always have gratification, but we always have hope. It is this hope in salvation and life everlasting which needs to strengthen us and make clear to us what is most precious to us in our human lives. According to St. Paul “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains… and not only that, but we ourselves.” There is nothing pleasant about the process of labor and birth except for the baby who results. It is that kind of joy, of constant rebirth, of constant conversion, that Paul calls us to keep in mind.

The Gospel reading from Matthew relates Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. There are some interesting slants to this Gospel passage. Jesus was fond of teaching from a boat. It may have been a desire to have some separation from the crowds, but there were practical reasons for it as well. In terms of His voice carrying, speaking over water is clearer and more pronounced than on land. Also, imagine listening to the greatest of all teachers with something as stirring as a vast sea behind Him. One of the Lord’s key sentences is “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This hearkens to the first reading from Isaiah in which the Word of God comes to us and we are expected to hear it and to act on it and to do something constructive with it.

How carefully do we listen to the Word of God at Mass? How often do we try to absorb it and understand it? Most important, how frequently do we take the message and put it into practice in our own lives? Stewardship calls us to be attentive and to look beyond the obvious. Jesus wants us to be the fertile ground on which His words, the Word fall. We are the good soil, but we must accept and nurture the seeds planted by the Word. Stewardship necessitates conversion. To be truly converted we must see; we must hear; and we must understand.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: July 13, 2014

July 13, 2014 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 10-11; Ps 65: 10-14; Rom 8: 18-23; Mt 13: 1-23

We are accustomed to Jesus teaching us with parables and comparisons and other methods to make His Word clearer. However, God does similar things in the Old Testament. There is a great example in today’s first reading from Isaiah. Scholars have concluded that Isaiah was written some 600 to 800 years before the birth of Christ.

In today’s reading, God compares His Word to the water cycle whereby the rains and snow provide water to the earth so it will be “fertile and fruitful” and then the water returns to the Heavens to begin the sequence again. God stresses that His Word is passed down to us and it should not return to Him “void.”

God’s word, God’s instructions and guidance, are intended for us. Most of us perceive that stewardship involves us practicing our faith regularly, worshipping and praying often. Part of that worship nonetheless is to listen to, to consider, and to act on God’s Word. In that way we are fulfilling His will; His Word is achieving the purpose for which it was sent. That is a major part of stewardship: uniting with God to serve Him and to serve others. Are we listening? St. Patrick himself said, “May the Strength of God pilot us; may the Wisdom of God instruct us; may the Hand of God protect us; may the Word of God direct us.”

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zec 9: 9-10; Ps 145: 1-2, 8-11, 13-14: Rom 8: 9, 11-13; Mt 11: 25-30

“His kingdom will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” With those words Zechariah concludes our first reading, a prophecy of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, and of His Kingdom. The Book of Zechariah was written six centuries before the birth of Christ, but the verses of our first reading connect us to everything completely.

The “River” which is referenced is the Euphrates River. In a sense that river is close to the beginning of everything in our history and tradition. In Genesis it states that a river flowed through the Garden of Eden and then divided into four rivers. The fourth of those rivers is the Euphrates (Genesis 2:10). In two verses Zechariah connects the creation to the coming of Jesus. The Lord’s reign will be universal and will encompass the entire earth. We are called to “rejoice heartily” and to “shout for joy.”

Stewardship can be somewhat of an all-encompassing term. Most of us understand that Jesus called us to be stewards of everything we have and everything we are, and to use a portion of those gifts to build the Kingdom of God. Stewardship also means that we need to try to grasp and comprehend our faith and everything it entails. The readings on this 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time span the depth and breadth of our faith. As indicated, the first reading connects the beginning to the end.

In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, our second reading, Paul calls our attention to another important feature of our faith. It is our spiritual lives which are key, not the reality of our bodies. At our Baptism we were imbued with the Holy Spirit. From that moment we were filled with a spirit more powerful than the flesh. There is a caution in this belief, however. Paul and others continually point out the weakness of the Pharisees. They were too spiritually proud — that is, there was a self righteousness among them which resulted from them believing that they were spiritually fulfilled while others were not. An important understanding of stewardship is that we must constantly strive to be a spiritual people, while at the same time not thinking we are better than anyone else. The secret is to be a servant — to serve, but not to feel superior about it.

The Gospel from Matthew not only relates to the first reading, but it reminds us of how much the Lord loves us.

The humble description of the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem described in the first reading: “meek and riding on a donkey,” is fulfilled by the Lord’s description of Himself: “For I am gentle and lowly in heart.” One of the characteristics of Jesus which is not easy for many of us to emulate is His absolute humility. Yet, it is this humility, this understanding of what it means to love and to help others, which allows Him to be our Savior and our Redemption and our strength. If we do allow Jesus to take our burdens, to share in our yokes, we will find rest and comfort in His everlasting presence and love. At the World Youth Day in Brazil last year Pope Francis declared, “The Cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of mankind, including our own. Jesus accepts all this with open arms, bearing on His shoulders our crosses and saying to us: ”Have courage! You do not carry your cross alone! I carry it with you. I have overcome death and I have come to give you hope, to give you life’ (John 3:16).”

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings

Stewardship Bulletin Reflection: July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Zec 9: 9-10; Ps 145: 1-2, 8-11, 13-14: Rom 8: 9, 11-13; Mt 11: 25-30

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” With these words of relief and comfort, Jesus calls us to be one with Him so that He can share in our own burdens, our own trials and tribulations. There is a deeper meaning for us if we understand the comparisons to life in Jesus’ time.

When training a young ox, the owner would often attach the calf to an older, more experienced ox that was accustomed to both the yoke and the weight of pulling the burden. Jesus is encouraging us to share our tests with Him by taking on the yoke and allowing Him to assist us with our troubles and difficulties.

Often we point out that one of the basics of stewardship is to live a God-centered life rather than a self-centered life. The Lord’s message is that in living this way, our lives, and especially the distressful aspects of our lives, become something that He can bear more easily. Of course, we have to be willing to be His disciples and to commit our lives to serving Him and others. In that way, the Lord will truly give us rest. Jesus’ spirit, dwelling within us, will genuinely give us life.

Posted in Stewardship Bulletin Reflections

Special Opportunity! One Day Regional Stewardship Conference – July 23, 2014

Join us Wednesday, July 23, 2014, for the Msgr. McGread Regional Stewardship Conference, presented by Catholic Stewardship Consultants, and hosted by St. Patrick Catholic Church in Wadsworth, Ill.

Experience the same spirituality, stewardship insights, success stories and networking opportunities that have become such valued components of our twice-annual Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conferences in Wichita, Kan. This is a particularly exciting opportunity for those within driving distance to the Chicagoland metropolitan area.

There are a limited number of spaces available, so we are extending an invitation to our followers of The Catholic Steward blog to attend this one-of-a-kind event.

At this conference, you will learn about the late Msgr. Thomas McGread, who is often called the “Father of Stewardship. He was instrumental in the drafting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.

Hear the remarkable story of how stewardship transformed Msgr. McGread’s parish — St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita — and how it has impacted other parishes across the country. The conference also will feature presentations by pastors from around the country who will share stories of how stewardship has become a way of life in their parishes.

The McGread Regional Stewardship Conference will be held at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Wadsworth, Ill., located between Chicago and the Illinois/Wisconsin border.

Click here to open a PDF version of the Msgr. McGread Regional Stewardship Conference brochure and learn more about this event. You can also register for the conference online by clicking here.

Conference spots will fill up quickly, so click the link above and register today! For more information, contact Shari Navarre at 888-822-1847, ext. 3702, or by e-mail at shari@catholicsteward.com.

Posted in Msgr. McGread Stewardship Conference

Stewardship Reflection on Lectionary Readings: June 29, 2014

June 29, 2014 – Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles
Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 34: 2-9; 1 Tm 4: 6-8, 17-18; Mt 16: 13-19

Our celebrations during the month of June have spanned from June 8, Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, to June 15, the Most Holy Trinity, to June 22, Corpus Christi, to today’s Solemnity, when we celebrate the lives and faith and service of Sts. Peter and Paul. On this day (June 29) in the year 258 Pope Sixtus VI celebrated the two together at the St. Sebastian Catacombs, and that is why we commemorate them together on this date. It is worth noting that throughout the St. Sebastian Catacombs prayers are carved on the walls by early Christians, which begin “Petrus et Paulus.” These two mainstays of our Catholic Church are almost considered as one in terms of their total impact, and they have been for centuries.

The readings for this Solemnity touch on the significance of both Sts. Peter and Paul, and expand the understanding of how deep their influence was on the Church as well as on those of us who are among the faithful of that Church. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles focuses on Saint Peter, although the martyrdom of Saint James is also important.

We deem Peter as our first Pope, and every Holy Father since has served in the succession of Peter. According to The Catechism of the Catholic Church (552-553): “Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Our Lord then declared to him: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’ Christ, the ‘living Stone’, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed, Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.” The fact that St. James (the Greater) was martyred and Peter spared is a clear indication that the Lord had great things in mind for St. Peter.

In St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, the second reading, we not only hear of the special apostolate to which Paul was called, but also the eloquent way Paul describes it. Historically, it is most probable that Sts. Peter and Paul were in Rome at the same time. Scholars have concluded that Peter was martyred in 64 AD under the emperor Nero (Peter would have been approximately 65 years of age), and that Paul was martyred a short time later, also by the Emperor Nero. The fact that these two men were in Rome at the same time and died relatively close together in terms of time, also ties them together for us. So much of Paul’s statements in this reading are memorable and well known, from “I am already poured out” to “I have finished the race,” but there is special significance in his statement “the crown of righteousness awaits me.” In the original Greek, St. Paul used the word stephanosfor “crown.” That is worth noting since that kind of crown was not a royal crown, but a victor’s crown. What makes it especially momentous is the name of the first martyr who suffered under Paul’s persecution — Stephanos (St. Stephen).

We have already made reference to the Gospel in which Jesus identifies St. Peter as the “rock” on which He will build His Church (There could be no clearer indication that we are part of the Church established by Jesus and initially developed by Peter.). Like Jesus and the Blessed Mother, Sts. Peter and Paul are at the apex of stewardship examples to all of us. Peter exemplifies stewardship in his loyalty to Jesus (like us, however, he was wonderfully human in that regard) and in his steadfast way of establishing the Church. Paul represents the wisdom of stewardship. Both remind us of how we, too, can overcome doubt: Peter denied the Lord but repented; Paul resisted the truth, but came to believe.

Posted in Homily Guides, Stewardship Reflections on Lectionary Readings